Monday, July 6, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
Agra (pronounced [ɑːgrə] (help·info)) (Hindi: आगरा, Urdu: آگرہ) is a city on the banks of the Yamuna River in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India. It finds mention in the epic Mahābhārata where it was called Agrevaṇa (अग्रेवण), or 'the border of the forest'. Legend ascribes the founding of the city to Rājā Badal Singh (around 1475), whose fort, Badalgarh, stood on or near the site of the present Fort. However, the 11th century Persian poet Mas'ūd Sa'd Salmān writes of a desperate assault on the fortress of Agra, then held by the Shāhī King Jayapala, by Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna. Sultan Sikandar Lodhī was the first to move his capital from Delhi to Agra in the year 1506; he died in 1517 and his son Ibrāhīm Lodhī remained in power there for nine more years, finally being defeated at the Battle of Panipat in 1526. It achieved fame as the capital of the Mughal emperors from 1526 to 1658 and remains a major tourist destination because of its many splendid Mughal-era buildings, most notably the Tāj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpūr Sikrī, all three of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Agra is situated on the banks of the Yamaha river. It has an average elevation of 171&tbsp;meters (561&tbsp;ft). To the north it is bound by Mathura, to the south by Haulier, to the east by Faisalabad, to the south-east by Fatheaded and to the west by Bukhara. Agra is the third biggest city in Attar Prado. The Agra district is divided into six Testilys and fifteen Blocks. The total number of Nay Panchromatics in the district are 114 while Gram Sachas stands at 636. The total populated villages are 904. The total number of police stations in the district are 41 out of which 16 are in urban areas, while 25 are in rural ones. The total number of Railway Stations (including Halts) are 29 and Bus Stands/Bus Stops are 144. Total number of Broad Gauge lines is 196 K.M. and Meter Gauge is 35 K.M.
average temperatures in Agra, located on the Indo-Gangetic plain has a continental climate, with long, hot summers from April to September when temperatures can reach as high as 45 °C (113 °F). During summers dry winds (loo) blow in this region. The monsoon months from July to September see about 69 cm (27 inches) of rainfall annually. Winters last from November to February, with day time temperatures comfortably warm, but temperatures below freezing are not uncommon during the night. Agra is also prone to dense fog during the winter months of December & January.
A major tourist destination, Agra is best visited in the months of October, November, February and March, when the average temperatures are between 16-25 °C (60-75 °F). The monsoon season should be avoided by non-Indians due to the risk of disease and flooding, and the months of April to June due to the extreme heat. The months of December and January are to be avoided due to the dense fog and often freezing temperatures, especially since much of the city has no heating system.
As of the 2000 Indian census, Agra had a population of 1,800,000. Males constitute 53% of the population and females 47%. Agra has an average literacy rate of 65%, higher than the national average of 63.5%; with 76% males literate. 11% of the population is under 6 years of age. Hindi is spoken by virtually everyone; English and Urdu are also spoken.
Agra is a medieval city situated on the banks of the river Yamuna. It is generally accepted that Sultan Sikandar Lodī, the Ruler of the Delhi Sultanate founded it in the year 1504. After the Sultan's death the city passed on to his son Sultan Ibrāhīm Lodhī. He ruled his Sultanate from Agra until he fell fighting to Bābar in the First battle of Panipat fought in 1526.
In the year 1556, the great Hindu warrior, Hemu Vikramaditya also known as Hem Chander Vikramaditya won Agra as the Prime Minister cum Chief of Army of Adil Shah of the Afghan Sūrī Dynasty. The commander of Humāyūn / Akbar's forces in Agra was so scared of Hemu that he ran away from the city without a fight. This was Hemu's 21st continuous win, and he later went on to conquer Delhi, having his coronation at Purānā Qil'a in Delhi and re-established the Hindu Kingdom and the Vikramaditya Dynasty in North India.
The golden age of the city began with the Mughals. It was known then as Akbarabād and remained the capital of the Mughal Empire under the Emperors Akbar, Jahāngīr and Shāh Jahān. Shāh Jahān later shifted his capital to Shāhjahānabād in the year 1649.
Since Akbarabād was one of the most important cities in India under the Mughals, it witnessed a lot of building activity. Babar, the founder of the Mughal dynasty laid out the first formal Persian garden on the banks of river Yamuna. The garden is called the Arām Bāgh or the Garden of Relaxation. His grandson Akbar raised the towering ramparts of the Great Red Fort, besides making Agra a center for learning, arts, commerce and religion. Akbar also built a new city on the outskirts of Akbarabād called Fatehpūr Sikrī. This city was built in the form of a Mughal military camp in stone.
His son Jahāngīr had a love of gardens and flora and fauna and laid many gardens inside the Red Fort or Lāl Qil'a. Shāh Jahān ,known for his keen interest in architecture, gave Akbarabād its most prized monument, The Tāj Mahal. Built in loving memory of his wife Mumtāz Mahal, the mausoleum was completed in 1653.
Shāh Jahān later shifted the capital to Delhi during his reign, but his son Aurangzeb moved the capital back to Akbarabād, usurping his father and imprisoning him in the Fort there. Akbarabād remained the capital of India during the rule of Aurangzeb until he shifted it to Aurangabad in the Deccan in 1653. After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the city came under the influence of Marathas and Jats and was called Agra, before falling into the hands of the British Raj in 1803.
Agra, Main Street, c.1858
In 1835 when the Presidency of Agra was established by the British, the city became the seat of government, and just two year later it was the witness to the Agra famine of 1837–38. During the Indian rebellion of 1857 British rule across India was threatened, news of the rebellion had reached Agra on 11 May and on the 30th of May two companies of native infantry, the 44th and 67th regiments, rebelled and marched to Delhi. The next morning native Indian troops in Agra were forced to disarm, on 15 June Gwalior (which lies south of Agra) rebelled. By 3 July the British were forced to withdraw into the fort. Two days later a small British force at Sucheta were defeated and force to withdraw, this lead to a mob sacking the city. However the rebels moved onto Delhi which allowed the British to restore order by the 8th of July. Delhi fell to the British in September, the following month rebels who had fled Delhi along with rebels from Central India marched on Agra - but were defeated. After this British rule was again secured over the city until the independence of India in 1947.
Agra is the birth place of the religion known as Dīn-i Ilāhī, which flourished during the reign of Akbar and also of the Radhaswami Faith, which has around two million followers worldwide.
Agra Airport at Kheria is about 6 km from the city centre, but is not very well connected. Now one can catch connecting flights to Agra via delhi or jaipur from most of the major cities of India. Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi is the best option. Agra is very well connected to Delhi both by rail and road.
Main article: Railways in Agra
Agra is on the main train line between Delhi (Station Code : NDLS) and Mumbai (Bombay) (Station Code : CSTM) and between Delhi and Chennai (Station Code : MAS) and many trains connect Agra with these cities every day. Some east-bound trains from Delhi also travel via Agra, so direct connections to points in Eastern India (including Kolkata) (Calcutta) are also available. There are close to 20 trains to Delhi every day, and at least three or four to both Mumbai and Chennai. There are three stations in Agra:
Agra Cantt (Station Code : AGC) is the main railway station and lies southwest of the Taj and Agra Fort, both of which are a short ride from the station by car, auto-rickshaw, or cycle rickshaw. There's a prepaid taxi stand right outside that charges a flat Rs.120 to any hotel in the city. The station has a pretty good Comesum food court that also sells cheap, hygienic takeaway snacks (sandwiches, samosas, etc).
Agra Fort Railway Station (Station Code : AF) near Agra Fort, is infrequently serviced by the interstate express trains. The station serves trains to the east (Kanpur, Gorakhpur, Kolkata, Guwahati) some of these trains also stop at Agra Cantt.
Raja Ki Mandi (Station Code : RKM) is a small station. Some of the trains which stop at Agra Cantt also stop here. It is a very laid back station and springs into life at the arrival of Intercity Express and Taj Express.
The luxury trains - the Palace on Wheels, and the Royal Rajasthan On Wheels also stop at Agra on their eight day round trip of tourist destinations in Rajasthan and Agra. The Buddhist Special Train also visits Agra.
Idgah Bus Stand is the biggest Bus Stand in Agra and is connected to most of the bigger cities in North India.
From Delhi: NH2, a modern divided highway, connects the 200 km distance from Delhi to Agra. The drive is about 4 hours. The primary access to the highway is along Mathura Road in Delhi but, if coming from South Delhi or Delhi Airport, it is easier to take Aurobindo Marg (Mehrauli Road) and then work up to NH2 via Tughlakabad.
From Jaipur: National Highway 11, a two lane undivided highway, connects Agra with Jaipur via the bird sanctuary town of Bharatpur. The distance of around 255 km can be covered in around 4–5 hours.
From Gwalior A distance of around 120 km, takes around 1.5 hours on the National highway 3, also known as the Agra - Mumbai Highway.
From Lucknow / Kanpur NH2, the divided modern highway, continues on to Kanpur (285 km, 5 hours) and from there to points East ending in Kolkata. From Kanpur, NH25 heads for the city of Lucknow (90 km, 2 hours).
A Jugaad carrying passengers to a political rally in Agra, India
Auto rickshaw and Cycle Rickshaw are the main modes of transport in Agra and are readily available.
While passengers need to negotiate rates for the rickshaws and they are usually expensive, there is a system of (what is called) 'Tempo' which are autorickshaws that run on specific routes called out by drivers. Tempos take around 6 people simultaneously and work out to be most economical and practical.
There are City Buses but they are infrequent.
Polluting vehicles are not allowed near Tāj Mahal, so one needs to take electric Auto's or Tanga (Tonga) from a few kilometres outside the Tāj Mahal.
Places of Interest
Main article: Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal
Agra's Taj Mahal is one of the most famous buildings in the world, the mausoleum of Shah Jahān's favorite wife, Mumtāz Mahal. It is one of the New Seven Wonders of the world, and one of three World Heritage Sites in Agra.
Completed in 1653 CE., the Tāj Mahal was built by the Mughal king Shāh Jahān as the final resting place for his beloved wife, Mumtāz Mahal. Finished in marble, it is perhaps India's most fascinating and beautiful monument. This perfectly symmetrical monument took 22 years (1630-1652) of hard labour and 20,000 workers, masons and jewellers to build and is set amidst landscaped gardens. Built by the Persian architect, Ustād 'Īsā, the Tāj Mahal is on the bank of the Yamuna River. It can be observed from Agra Fort from where Emperor Shāh Jahān gazed at it, for the last eight years of his life, a prisoner of his son Aurangzeb. It is an acknowledged masterpiece of symmetry. Verses of the Koran are inscribed on it and at the top of the gate are twenty-two small domes, signifying the number of years the monument took to build. The Tāj Mahal was built on a marble platform that stands above a sandstone one. The most elegant dome of the Tāj Mahal has a diameter of 60 feet (18 m), and rises to a height of 80 feet (24 m); directly under this dome is the tomb of Mumtāz Mahal. Shah Jahān's tomb was erected next to hers by his son Aurangzeb. The interiors are decorated by fine inlay work, incorporating semi-precious stones.
Amar Singh Gate,one of two entrances into Agra's Red Fort
Agra Fort (sometimes called the Red Fort), was commissioned by the great Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1565, and is another of Agra's World Heritage Sites. A stone tablet at the gate of the Fort states that it had been built before 1000 but was later renovated by Akbar. The red sandstone fort was converted into a palace during Shāh Jahān's time, and reworked extensively with marble and pietra dura inlay. Notable buildings in the fort include the Pearl Mosque, the Dīwān-e-'Ām and Dīwān-e-Khās (halls of public and private audience), Jahāngīr's Palace, Khās Mahal, Shīsh Mahal (mirrored palace), and the Musamman Burj.
The great Mughal Emperor Akbar commissioned the construction of the Agra Fort in 1565 CE., although it was converted into a place by his grandson Shāh Jahān, being reworked extensively with marble and pietra dura inlay. Notable buildings in the fort include the Pearl Mosque or Motī Masjid, the Dīwān-e-'Ām and Dīwān-e-Khās (halls of public and private audience), Jahāngīr's Palace, Khās Mahal, Shīsh Mahal (mirrored palace), and the Musamman Burj. The forbidding exteriors of this fort conceal an inner paradise. The fort is crescent shaped, flattened on the east with a long, nearly straight wall facing the river. It has a total perimeter of 2.4 km, and is ringed by double castellated ramparts of red sandstone punctuated at regular intervals by bastions. A 9 m. wide and 10 m. deep moat surrounds the outer wall.
ChhatrapatiShīvajī visited the Agra Fort, as a result of the conditions of the Treaty of Purandar entered into with Mirzā Rājā Jaisingh to meet Aurangzeb in the Dīwān-i-Khās (Special Audience Chamber). In the audience he was deliberately placed behind men of lower rank. An insulted Shīvajī stormed out of the imperial audience and was confined to Jai Sing's quarters on 12 May 1666. Fearing the dungeons and execution he escaped on the 17th of August 1666. A heroic equestrian statue of Shīvajī has been erected outside the fort.
The fort is a typical example of Mughal architecture.It shows how the North Indian style of fort construction differentiated from that of the South.In the South the majority of the beautiful forts were built on the seabed like the one at Bekal in Kerala.]
Main article: Fatehpur Sikri
Diwan-i-Khas – Hall of Private Audience
The Mughal Emperor Akbar built Fatehpūr Sikrī about 35 km from Agra, and moved his capital there. Later abandoned, the site displays a number of buildings of significant historical importance. A World Heritage Site, it is often visited by tourists. The name of the place came about after the Mughal Emperor Bābar defeated Rāṇā Sāngā in a battle at a place called Sikrī (about 40 km from Agra). Then the Mughal Emperor Akbar wanted to make Fatehpūr Sikrī his head quarters, so he built a majestic fort; due to shortage of water, however, he had to ultimately move his headquarters to Agra Fort.
Buland Darwāza or 'the lofty gateway' was built by the great Mughal emperor, Akbar in 1601 CE. at Fatehpūr Sikrī. Akbar built the Buland Darwāza to commemorate his victory over Gujarat. The Buland Darwāza is approached by 42 steps. The Buland Darwāza is 53.63 m high and 35 meters wide. The Buland Darwāza is made of red and buff sandstone, decorated by carving and black and white marble inlays. An inscription on the central face of the Buland Darwāza demonstrates Akbar's religious broadmindedness, it is a message from Jesus advising his followers not to consider this world as their permanent home.
Main article: Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb
The 'Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb at Agra'
The Empress Nūr Jahān built I'timād-Ud-Daulah's Tomb, sometimes called the 'Baby Tāj', for her father, Mirzā Ghiyās Beg, the Chief Minister of the Emperor Jahāngīr. Located on the left bank of the Yamuna river, the mausoleum is set in a large cruciform garden criss-crossed by water courses and walkways. The mausoleum itself covers about twenty-three square meters, and is built on a base about fifty meters square and about one meter high. On each corner are hexagonal towers, about thirteen meters tall. Small in comparison to many other Mughal-era tombs, it is sometimes described as a jewel box. Its garden layout and use of white marble, pietra dura, inlay designs and latticework presage many elements of the Tāj Mahal.
The walls are white marble from Rajasthan encrusted with semi-precious stone decorations - cornelian, jasper, lapis lazuli, onyx, and topaz in images of cypress trees and wine bottles, or more elaborate decorations like cut fruit or vases containing bouquets. Light penetrates to the interior through delicate jālī screens of intricately carved white marble.
Many of Nūr Jahān's relatives are interred in the mausoleum. The only asymmetrical element of the entire complex is that the tombs of her father and mother have been set side-by-side, a formation replicated in the Tāj Mahal
Akbar's Tomb, Sikandra
Main article: Tomb of Akbar the Great
Tomb of Akbar the Great
Sikandra, the last resting place of the Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great, is on the Delhi-Agra Highway, only 13 kilometres from the Agra Fort. Akbar's tomb reflects the completeness of his personality. The vast, beautifully carved, red-ochre sandstone tomb with deers, rabbits and langoors is set amidst a lush garden. Akbar himself planned his own tomb and selected a suitable site for it. To construct a tomb in one's lifetime was a Turkic custom which the Mughals followed religiously. Akbar's son Jahāngīr completed construction of this pyramidal tomb in 1613. The names of the Gods of ninety-nine religious sects have been inscribed on the tomb.
Swāmī Bāgh Samādhi
The Swāmī Bāgh Samādhi is the mausoleum of Huzūr Swāmijī Mahārāj (Shrī Shiv Dayāl Singh Seth) in the Swāmībāgh section, on the high road that goes from Bhagwan Talkies to Dayāl Bāgh, in the outskirts of the city. He was the founder of the Radhāswāmī Faith and the Samādhi is sacred to its followers. Construction began in February 1904 and still continues. Many believe that construction will never end at Swāmī Bāgh - it is often seen as the next Tāj Mahal. The carvings in stone, using a combination or coloured marble, are life-like and not seen anywhere else in India. The picture shown is taken from the rear of the building and shows only two floors. When completed, the Samādhi will have a carved dome and a gateway.
Main article: Mankameshwar Temple
The Mankameswar Temple is one of four ancient temples dedicated to Lord Shiva located on the four corners of Agra City. It is located near the Jāma Masjid and is about 2.5 kilometers from the Tāj Mahal and less than 1 km from Agra Fort. Being located in the old city, the temple is surrounded by markets, many of which date back to the Mughal Era.
Gurū kā Tal
Main article: Guru ka Tal
Gurū kā Tal was originally a reservoir meant to collect and conserve rainwater built in Agra, near Sikandra, during Jahāngīr's reign next to the Tomb of I'tibār Khān Khwājasara in 1610. In 1970s a gurdwāra was erected here. Gurū kā Tal is a holy place of worship for the Sikhs. Four of the ten Sikh Gurus are said to have paid it a visit. Enjoying both historical and religious importance, this gurdwāra attracts a large number of devotees and tourists. Boasting elaborate stone carvings and 8 towers of the twelve original towers. It is located by national (Delhi-Agra) highway-2.
Main article: Jama Masjid (Agra)
The Jāma Masjid is a large mosque attributed to Shah Jahan's daughter, Princess Jahanara Begum, built in 1648, notable for its unusual dome and absence of minarets. The inscription at its entrance shows that it costed Rs 5 Lakhs at that time for its completion
Chīnī kā Rauza
Main articles: Chini Ka Rauza and Chīnī kā Rauza
Notable for its Persian influenced dome of blue glazed tiles, the Chīnī kā Rauza is dedicated to the Prime Minister of Shāh Jahān, 'Allāma Afzal Khāl Mullā Shukrullāh of Shirāz.
Main article: Ram Bagh
The oldest Mughal garden in India, the Rām Bāgh was built by the Emperor Bābar in 1528 on the bank of the Yamuna. It lies about 2.34 km north of the Tāj Mahal. The pavilions in this garden are designed so that the wind from the Yamuna, combined with the greenery, keeps them cool even during the peak of summer. The original name of the gardens was Ārām Bāgh, or 'Garden of Relaxation', and this was where the Mughal emperor Bābar used to spend his leisure time and where he eventually died. His body was kept here for sometime before sending it to Kabul
Main article: Mariams Tomb
Mariams Tomb, is the tomb of Mariam, the wife of great Mughal Emperor Akbar. The tomb is within the compound of the Christian Missionary Society.
The Mehtāb Bāgh, or 'Moonlight Garden', is on the opposite bank of the River Yamuna from the Tāj Mahal.
Also known as Sur Sarovar, Keetham Lake is situated about 23 kilometres from Agra, within the Surdas Reserved Forest. The lake has an impressive variety of aquatic life and water birds.
Mughal Heritage Walk
The Mughal Heritage Walk is a part of community development programme being implemented with support of Agra Municipal corporation, USAID and an NGO; Center for Urban and Regional Excellence. It seeks to build sustainable livelihoods for youth and women from low resource communities and improving their living environments through infrastructure services and integration within the city.
The Mughal Heritage Walk is a one kilometer loop which connects the agricultural fields with the Rajasthani culture, river bank connected with the ancient village of Kuchhpura, the Heritage Structure of Mehtab Bagh, the Mughal aqueduct system, the Humanyun Mosque and the Gyarah Sidi.
Friday, April 24, 2009
The history of Pakistan traces back to the beginnings of human life in South Asia. Pakistan is home to the Indus Valley civilization, which is amongst the oldest in the world. Prior to the 1900's the area of Pakistan was the area from which the Muslims ruled over Central and Southern Asia for over 300 years.Today Pakistan is made up of people from various races including Arabs from after the Islamic expeditions, Persians from Bukhara and Samarkand, Turks from Central Asia and the Hindus who were converted to Islam.
The official name of Pakistan was used after the partition of (British) India into the 2 states of India and Pakistan in 1947. The once Mughal Empire was divided into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (with two sections West and East) and largely Hindu, albeit secular India. A third war between these countries in 1971 resulted in East Pakistan seceding and becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh. A dispute over the state of Jammu and Kashmir is ongoing between India and Pakistan.
Pakistan is one of those few countries in the world which has every kind of geological structure. It has the sea, desert (Sindh & Punjab), green mountains (North West Provice), dry mountains (Balochistan), mountains covered with ice, rivers, rich land to cultivate (Punjab & Sindh), water resources, water falls, forests etc. The North West Frontier Province and the Northern Area contain the mountain ranges of the Himalayas, the Karakoram, and the Hindu Kush. Pakistan's highest point is K2, at 8,611 meters, which is the second highest peak in the world. The Punjab province is a flat, alluvial plain whose rivers eventually join the Indus River and flow south to the Arabian Sea. Sindh lies between the Thar Desert the Rann of Kutch to the east, and the Kirthar range to the west. The Balochistan Plateau is arid and surrounded by dry mountains. Pakistan experiences frequent earthquakes, occasionally severe, especially in north and west
Mostly hot, dry desert; temperate in northwest; arctic in north. Flooding along the Indus after heavy rains (July and August). Fertile and sub humid heat in the Punjab region.
Eid-ul-Fitr - the largest holiday of the year, it celebrates the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Food is the highlight, and if you're lucky you'll be invited into a private home for a feast. Businesses close for at least a couple days if not a week.
Eid-ul-Azha - the festival of sacrifice, commemorates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son
Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi - Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, varies according to Hijera calendar
Pakistan Day - March 23
May day - May 1
Independence Day - August 14
Quaid-e-Azam's deathday - September 11
Quaid-e-Azam's birthday - December 25
Ramadan - the 9th and holiest month in the Islamic calendar, Muslim's fast everyday for its duration and most restaurants will be closed until the fast breaks at dusk. Nothing (including water and cigarettes) are supposed to pass through the lips from sunrise to sunset. Foreigners and travelers are exempt from this, but you should still refrain from doing it in public.
Azad Kashmir Pakistan-administered portion of the disputed Kashmir region
Balochistan the largest and most remote province, its lack of infrastructure can make for rough traveling. Most foreign visitors here are just passing through from Iran, stopping briefly in Quetta
Federally Administered Tribal Areas this area is mostly off-limits to foreigners, and is not under the control of Pakistan's governenment. Home to the legendary Khyber Pass, and the gun making city of Darra Adam Khel.
Islamabad The capital area encompasses Islamabad, Rawalpindi, the Margalla Hills and the ancient ruins of Taxila
Northern Areas home to some of the world's tallest mountains, it's brimming with dramatically fantastic landscapes and can easily compete with Nepal for trekking opportunities
North-West Frontier Province Home of the rugged Pashtuns, for some it's forbidding and mysterious... yet below the surface are some of the most hospitable people in the country
Punjab The most populous and agriculturally fertile region in the country, and home to many historical shrines and mosques
Sindh Most visitors head for Karachi or the ancient ruins of Moenjodaro.
The festival of Eid ul-Fitr is held after the end of Ramadan and may last several days. Exact dates depend on astronomical observations and may vary from country to country.
Pakistan has many cities and towns. Below are nine of the most notable. Other cities are listed under their specific regions.
Islamabad - The Federal capital, a relatively new planned city with a much more laidback feel than the rest of the country's cities
Karachi - the Financial capital and the largest city of the country, it's an industrial port city and the provincial capital of Sindh
Lahore - City of the Mughals, it's a bustling and a very historical city that shouldn't be missed, the food variety is the best in the country.
Faisalabad - A major city in Punjab, famous for its textile industry
Multan - The City of Saints, famous for blue pottery, ornamental glasswork, and Khussa - a type of shoes
Quetta - a large, beautiful and slightly unruly city in the southern state of Balochistan, you'll pass through here en route to or from Iran
Muzaffarabad - Capital of Azad Kashmir and the center of the 2005 earthquake
Peshawar - Capital city of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), it has a bit of an outlaw edge to it, and is the gateway to the Khyber Pass
Sialkot - The City of sports goods, famous for its exports industry, one of the oldest city in the region
Karakoram Highway – part of the historic Silk Road, it's the main artery running north to China.
Hunza Valley – one of the more stunning and popular parts of the high mountain areas, some liken it to paradise on Earth. Supposedly the setting for James Hilton's Shangri-La, and the valley lives up to that reputation.
Skardu - Popular for its Shangrila resort.
Murree is a popular Himalayan hill station, one hours drive from Islamabad.
Mountain peaks and glaciers – Pakistan's Northern Areas are home to some of the highest mountains in the world, including K2, Rakaposhi and Nanga Parbat, and offer incredible trekking opportunities
Kalasha Valleys – witness the decline of a truly unique culture in Chitral District
Deserts – Pakistan is home to the Thar desert in Sindh and the Cholistan desert in the Punjab, which it shares with neighboring India
Beaches – Pakistan is home to some of the worlds most beautiful beaches located between Karachi and Gwadar along Makran coastal highway
Archaelogical treasures – the country's rich history has left many things to explore; Taxila, Moenjodaro, Thatta and Harappa are some of the more famous
Almost all nationalities require visas. These are usually easier to obtain in your home country, though recently the individual missions around the world have been given more authority to issue visas without checking in with Islamabad, which should help in getting applications turned around quicker.
Recently a list of 24 "Tourist Friendly Countries" (TFC) was announced that are eligible for one month visas on arrival if they travel through a designated/authorized  tour operator who will assume responsibility for them while in the country. Any extensions on this type of visa must also be done through the tour operator. They include: Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, the UK and the USA.
Nationals of most other countries (and those not wanting to travel with a tour operator and group) need to apply in advance for a visa, which are usually issued for 30-90 days depending on nationality and where you apply. Double-entries are sometimes given, but be clear and persistent when applying that you need this.
A handful of countries are issued visas on arrival: Iceland, Maldives and Zambia for 3 months, Hong Kong, Nepal and Western Samoa for 1 month, while Tonga and Trinidad and Tobago nationals can stay for an unlimited amount of time.
Nationals of Israel are not allowed entry as it is not recognized as a nation by Pakistan (and most other Muslim countries), but there is not any restriction on Jews holding passports from other nations. Despite much online information to the contrary, Israeli stamps and visas would usually pose no problems for entry into Pakistan, though you may be subject to more stringent questioning by immigration officers.
Indian nationals can apply for 30 day tourist visas but must travel in a group through an authorized tour operator. Visitor visas to meet relatives or friends are more easy to obtain, and come with some restrictions. Religious visas are granted for groups of 10 or more for 15 days.
Nationals of Afghanistan are refused entry if their passports or tickets show evidence of transit or boarding in India.
Holders of Taiwan passports are refused entry except in airport transit.
Business visas are now being issued for up to 5 years, multiple entry, as soon as 24 hours before arrival.
The Pakistan Consulate in Istanbul does not issue visas unless you are a resident of Turkey, although it may be possible in Ankara.
The consulate in Zahedan in Iran no longer issues visas, head for the embassy in Tehran.
The High Commission for Pakistan in New Delhi issues visas with a few days needed to process the application. Applications are only accepted in the mornings from around 8-11AM. Arrive early and expect the process to take a few hours. Window 4 is for foreign tourist and business visas.
People of Pakistani origin living overseas are granted 5 year multiple entry visas (along with their spouses), good for single stays of up to 1 year. Visas aren't required at all if they are holding a Pakistan Origin Card (POC) or a National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP).
Jinnah International Airport
Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad are the main gateways to Pakistan by air. However, there are 134 airfields in Pakistan. Six other international airports are in Quetta,Gawadar, Peshawar, Sialkot, Multan and Faisalabad.
Jinnah International Airport in Karachi  is served by many international airlines, including Air Arabia, Air China, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Cathy Pacific, Etihad, Emirates, Gulf, Qatar Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Syrian Arab Airlines, SriLankan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Iran Air, Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airways , China Airways and Turkish Airlines . It's also the main hub of the national carrier "PIA"and 2 private airlines (Air Blue and Shaheen Air).
Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore  has been completely renovated with a new terminal for international arrivals and departures. Many airlines are currently operating to the airport including Emirates, Etihad Airways, Indian Airlines, Mahan Air, Qatar Airways, Gulf Air, Singapore Airlines, Pakistan International (PIA), Saudi Arabian Airlines, Thai Airways, Kuwait Airways, Uzbekistan Airways and two private airlines from Pakistan.
Islamabad International Airport (Banazir Bhutto International Airport) is currently in review to be expanded and modernized to meet the needs of the future passenger numbers as demand for air travel has increased dramatically. There are many airlines operating into Islamabad including many of the above with Ariana Afghan Airlines, British Airways and China Southern Airlines. The only problem is that the airport is also used by Government officials as well as arrivals from foreign diplomats so the airport may shut down as security is increased so flights are delayed.
Pakistan has train links with India and Iran, though none of these trains are the fastest or most practical way to enter Pakistan. Should speed be a priority it is better to take the bus, or if you are really in a hurry, to fly, however the trains are sights in their own right.
India has two links: The Samjhauta Express is the more common, running on Tuesdays and Fridays between Delhi and Lahore via the Attari/Wagah border crossing. Tourists should be aware that after recent terrorist attacks on the train, which caused many a casualty and strained relationships between the two neighbors, it is strongly advised that you take taxis or buses to and from the border instead. The Thar Express restarted in February 2006 after 40 years out of service. It runs from Munabao in the Indian state of Rajasthan to Khokrapar in Pakistan's Sindh province, but is not open to foreign tourists.
Iran has one link, from Zahedan to Quetta.
From ancient times people have been travelling through Pakistan using the Grand Trunk Road and the Silk Road that run through Pakistan and into the Indian subcontinent. It's a rewarding but time consuming way to see this part of the world. New highways have been developed and the country is due for an expansion in its highway network. A world-class motorway connects the cities of Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore, and Faisalabad.
Pakistan is connected to China through the Karakoram Highway, a modern feat of engineering that traverses a remarkably scenic route through the Karakoram and Himalayan mountains. Which is about to be expanded from current 10m wide to 30m because of the increase in trade traffic due to Gwader port opening.
There are two routes between Pakistan and Afghanistan:
The Khyber Pass connects Peshawar to Jalalabad and Kabul and requires an armed escort and a permit to travel through the tribal regions between Peshawar and the border. Onward travel from the border to Kabul is of questionable safety, check the current situation locally.
The Bolan Pass connects Quetta to Kandahar and is considered very dangerous. This route is currently only open to locals and aid workers.
From India: While there is international service running from Delhi to Lahore it is just as fast, much more flexible, and much cheaper to take the journey by stringing together local transport and crossing the border on foot.
From China: You can take a bus from Kashgar over the Karakoram Highway to Pakistan.
From Iran: One comes to Pakistan from Iran via the Mijva border in Iran which is half an hours drive from Zahedan. The Pakistani border town is called Taftan and has facilities of immigration, customs, hotels etc.
A trial ferry service was run from Dubai to Karachi, but this service has been discontinued.
In the past, getting around was a very hectic task, but nowadays it's very easy because of the advent of motorways and many private airlines.
 By plane
Pakistan International Airlines 
Aero Asia International 
Shaheen Air International 
PIA serves numerous domestic destinations and is the only airline to serve the three airports in the north of interest to trekkers or climbers: Chitral, Gilgit, and Skardu. There are usually two flights from Islamabad to these cities daily, but they are often canceled due to bad weather. The flights are often over-booked, show up early to guarantee your seat.
Pakistan Railway  provides passenger rail service. The stations tend not to have their timetables in English, but sales agents can usually explain everything to you. There are several different classes of fares depending on amenities. Foreign tourists and students with an ISIC card can get 25% and 50% discounts, respectively, by first visiting the PTDC (Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation) office, getting q verification certificate there, and bringing it with them to the train's commercial ticket office (which is different from the regular ticket office, but usually close by).
The most striking thing in Pakistan is the vision of trucks and buses completely covered in a riot of color and design. This image has been recommended for deletion.
A large portion of travel between cities in Pakistan is carried out by bus. Travelling between Karachi and any of the country's other major cities by bus may take days, and is usually advised against, because of highway robbery, known locally as 'dacoitry'. With that exception, however, travel by bus is often the cheapest and most convenient alternative. The Dae-Woo company runs a regular bus service between several major cities, with air-conditioned buses and seats booked one day ahead. While rather unexpensive, they are still almost five times as expensive as the cheap and uncomplicated rides offered by minibuses or larger buses between the major bus stations of the cities. Fares are often (though not always) paid directly on the bus, there is no aircondition, and sometimes very little knee space, but you get where you are going all the same, and I have never met with anything but kind interest and friendly conversation on my many rides. Buses leave almost incessantly from the major bus stations for all the major cities, and many smaller locations, so booking ahead is neither possible nor necessary on the simpler buses. When travelling between major cities, smaller buses are to be preferred over the larger ones, as the larger ones tend to take up passagers along the way, and therefore travel more slowly.
The situation is similar for local transport. While the organization of local transport may look a little different between cities, there is usually an active bus service running through the city, with varying levels of government control.
For local transport within cities, auto rickshaws are a cheap and flexible alternative. A development of the bicycle rickshaw, the auto rickshaw is a small vehicle powered by a two-stroke engine, constantly emitting a stuttering noise and foul blue-black smoke. Blue-and-yellow auto rickshaws take passengers, other colours tend to be privately owned. The inexperienced traveller should negotiate prices before entering the rickshaw.In Lahore 2 Stroke engine Rikshaws are replaced with Gas Powered 4 Strock engines.
Rickshaws are banned in the capital Islamabad.
Urdu is the national language and is spoken throughout Pakistan as lingua franca. In addition to Urdu most Pakistanis speak their regional languages or dialects such as Punjabi, Pothohari, Sindhi, Pashto (Pushtun), Balochi, Saraiki, Shina, Burushaski, Khowar, Wakhi, Hindko etc.
English is the official language used in all government and most educational and business entities, and is also understood and spoken at varying levels of competence by many people around Pakistan, especially the upper classes and people who have gone through higher levels of education, and those residing in the larger cities.
The national currency of Pakistan is the rupee (PKR). Coins are issued in 1, 2, and 5 rupee denominations while banknotes come in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000, and 5000 rupee values.
ATMs exist in most areas and accept major credit cards.
You can buy very cheap garments, bed sheets, shirts, T-shirts, It is to be mentioned that many world renowned brands like Adidas, Levis, Slazenger, HangTen, Wal-Mart etc get their products prepared from Faisalabad which has got one of the largest textile industries of the World. You can find cheap products of these brands at local stores. You can get a pair of Levis jeans (or any other good brand for that matter) for just 300 PKR (5 USD).
Buy leather goods like shoes, jackets and bags.
Buy sports goods like cricket bats, balls, kits, footballs, sports wear and almost anything related to sports you can imagine. You will not find such high quality equipments at such low cost anywhere else. To mention, Sialkot produces ninety percent of the world’s sports goods and is the largest provider of sports equipment to FIFA for the World cup.
Pakistan produces cheap and high quality musical instruments. You can even get an acoustic guitar for as low as 2000 PKR (34 USD).
Buy surgical instruments
Buy computer accessories
Buy Chinese goods especially Electronics & Cameras which are re-exported from Pakistan and is cheaper than other parts of the world.
Buy Arabian, Afghan, Iranian and Pakistani carpets
Buy Wood Carvings such as decorative wooden plates, bowls, artwork, furniture, and other miscellaneous items.
Buy Jewelry such as necklaces, bracelets etc are very inexpensive in Pakistan.
Buy gems, handicrafts (Ajrak from Sindh, Blue pottery from Multan, Clay pottery from Karachi), glassware, brassware, marble products, crystal works and antiques Also buy pashmina, rugs, wool-shawls or wraps, which can cost anywhere between $15 to as much as $700. Remember to bargain.
Buy souvenirs such as decorative items from Sea Shells.
For food stuffs go to any super store like Dmart, Makro, Metro; especially buy Swat honey, Biscuits, Mitchells chocolate which are the best in the world.
Buy home accessories
Buy Kitchen Utensils and Cutlery
For art lovers, get in touch with a local to take you around. There are so many art galleries in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad that are worth visiting and each will offer a completely different range of artwork, style and pricing. All the facilities should be visited if you are an art lover.
Pakistani food mainly consists of various kinds of kababs eaten with either flatbread or rice. Food tends range from mild to very spicy depending on where you are. So state your preference before beginning to eat. In general, most of the food that you find in the high end hotels is also available in the markets (but European-style food is generally reserved for the former).
The types of flatbread (collectively referred to as Naan are:
Naan - A soft and thick flat bread that often requires special clay ovens (tandoor) and cannot be properly made on home stoves.
Roti/Chapatti - A homemade bread, much thinner then naan and usually made out of unrefined flour, and which is ready in minutes.
Paratha - An extremely oily version of the roti. Usually excellent if you're going out to eat, but beware of health concerns; often it is literally dripping with oil because it is meant to be part of a rich meal. Paratha is more declicious if you cook it in pure oil like "desi ghee".
Sheer Mal - This is a slightly sweetened, lightly oiled bread that has waffle-like squares punched in it. It is often considered the most desirable bread and is a delicacy to most people. Often paired with nihari.
Taftan - Much like the 'sheer mal' but with a puffed-up ring around it. This is generally just as good as the 'sheer mal' but easier to eat liquidy curry (shorba) with.
As you might have noticed, 'Naan' is usually used to pick up liquid and soft foods like shorba and beans. Utensils are not commonly used during meals in Pakistan except to serve dishes (unless someone is eating rice and would like to be polite or is unpracticed eating it by hand). Attempting to cut a naan with a knife and drink shorba with a spoon may elicit some amusement around you. Watching others may help.
Types of 'kababs' (mainly made of Beef or Lamb):
Seekh Kabab (سيخ کباب) - A long skewer of minced beef mixed with herbs and seasonings.
Shami Kabab (شامي کباب) - A round patty of seasoned beef and lentils, softer than seekh kababs.
Chapli Kabab (چپلي کباب) - A spicy round kabab that is a specialty of Peshawar.
Chicken Kabab (مرغ کباب) - A popular kabab that is found both with bone and without.
Lamb Kabab (کبابِ برہ گوشت) - The all lamb meat kabab is usually served as cubes.
More Pakistani Foods:
Roasted Chicken (whole) (مرغ بريان) - A whole chicken roasted. Very famous around Pakistan. You'll see them on the rotisserie while driving on Lahore streets.
Biryani (برياني) - A dish with mixed pieces of chicken and rice. It smells nice from the saffron and other seasonings added.
Chicken Tikka - Barbequed chicken with a spicy exterior. Looks like a huge, red chicken leg and thigh. For all meat lovers. Is available most anywhere.
Haleem - Thick soup-like mix of tiny chunks of meat, lentils and wheat grains.
There are too many shorbas, or sauces, to enumerate. However, you should know of the most common ones.
Daal - Yellow (plain) or brown (slightly sour) lentil "soup". Usually unspiced. Common to all economic classes.
Aloo Gobi - Potatoes and cauliflower. Cooked so that both are soft and breakable with finger pressure.
Bhindi - Okra, Can be bitter...
X + ki sabzi - A vegetarian mixture with 'X' as the main ingredient.
Aloo Gosht (Potatoes and Meat) - Chunks of potato and goat meat in gravy. Levels of spice vary. One example of a generic dish that includes most things + Gosht(meat).
Nihari- Beef simmered for several hours. A delicacy often eaten with Nan, Sheer Mal, or Taftan. Few people will have this available without spice. Eat with lemon, fried onion and caution: it is one of the spiciest curries.
Paye - Very, very wet salan, often served in a bowl or similar dish. Eat by dipping pieces of naan in it, maybe finishing with a spoon. Hard to eat.
Enjoy a variety; ice cream can be found in an abundance of flavors such as the traditional pistachio flavoured Kulfi;
Falooda (فلودہ) is tasty rosewater desert. The sweets are extremely popular in Pakistan and called different things depending on where you go. Eat small chunks at a time, eating large pieces can be rude and will generally be too sweet.
Kulfi is a very traditional made ice-cream mixed with cream and different types of nuts.
If you want to go to some ice-cream parlors, there are some good ice-cream parlors in Lahore like "Polka Parlor" "Jamin Java" "Hot Spot".
A part from local restaurants, there are also international fast food chains having their outlets throughout in Pakistan. They include, KFC, Pizzahut, McDonalds, Subway, Nandos, Mr.Cod, Papa Johns and Domino
Tap water is generally not safe for drinking. However, some establishments have water filters/purifiers installed, in which case the water is safe to drink. Packed drinking water (normally called mineral water in Pakistan) is a better choice.
The taste of the water is said to be very good in the north-eastern side of Pakistan, especially in the district of Sialkot. Ask for bottled water wherever possible, and avoid anything cold that might have water in it.
Tea (or Chai as it is referred to in Pakistan) is popular throughout the country.
Both black and green tea (Sabz chai or qahvah) are common and are traditionally drunk with cardamom and lots of sugar. Lemon is optional but recommended with green tea.
Kashmiri chai is a milky tea with almonds and nuts added to give additional flavour. This tea is very popular during weddings and in the cold season.
Coffee is also available in all cities.
In the warmer southern region, sweet drinks are readily available throughout the day. Look for street vendors that have fruits (real or decorations) hanging from their roofs. Also, some milk/yogurt shops serve lassi. Ask for meethi lassi for a sweet yogurt drink and you can also get a salty lassi which tastes good if you are having "bhindi" in food or some other rich dish. There is also a sweet drink called Mango Lassi which is very rich and thick, made with yogurt, mango pulp, and pieces of mango.
Alcohol (both imported and local) is available to non-Muslim foreigners at off licenses and bars in most top end hotels. The local alcoholic beer is called 'Murree Beer. It is illegal for Muslims to buy, possess or consume alcohol in Pakistan. There is a huge black market across the country and the police tend to turn a blind eye to what is going on in private.
Hotels are usually found around busy transportation hubs like bus and train stations. Don't be fooled by an impressive lobby - ask to see the room and check the beds, toilets, lights, etc before checking in. If you have a big enough wallet you may want to try the reputable luxury hotels such as the Pearl Continental , Holiday Inn and others located in all major cities as well as many tourist destinations. With the exception of these upper-end hotels, the term "hotel" in Pakistan is reserved for simpler establishments, with "Guest House" referring to medium-sized establishments where the standard is typically higher. Also note that restaurants are also called "hotels", creating a fun potential for confusion.
Learn various dances. Taking some traditional cooking classes can also be very helpful later.
Many Pakistani companies are looking for Sales representatives and usually all manner of companies will be happy to speak to a well-dressed Westerner about business.
Many tourists are known to buy leather goods and other curios in Pakistan sell them in Goa India or somehow get them shipped back to the West.
Otherwise your best way of working is contact the numerous Aid agencies that work out of Peshawar, Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Pakistan has endured several bomb attacks over the last few years against security forces, so called western institutions (e.g the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad) and has seen the public assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto upon her return from exile. For the ordinary traveler it's a fairly welcoming country, but social protests tend to turn violent and political demonstrations are always sensitive. Before traveling you should check with your embassy about off-limits areas and the latest developments, and keep an eye on independent news sources.
Use common sense and a healthy dose of courtesy when in conversation with Pakistanis. Kashmir is a particularly sensitive topic, and best avoided altogether. Discussion about religion and Islam should remain respectful and positive — some Pakistanis are not tolerant of other religions, and if theirs is spoken about negatively, it could result in violence.
The line of control between Azad Kashmir and the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir is off-limits for foreign tourists, though domestic tourists can visit Azad Kashmir without any restriction (but should keep their identity cards with them).
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas & all regions near the sensitive Afghan border should not be visited at any time by foreign tourists, as the Pakistan government has little to no authority in these areas and cannot aid you in an emergency. If you do have reason to visit, seek expert guidance, including that of your embassy, who can advise you on the special permissions required.
Swat Valley has become extremely dangerous over the last couple of years and is best avoided at this time. Northern and Western Balochistan are considered dangerous and not fit for most tourists.
Visitors are strongly advised to refrain from drinking tap water; many Pakistani locals themselves drink boiled or purified water. Take every precaution to drink only boiled, filtered or bottled water. Tap water is known to contain many impurities. Ice is usually made from regular tap-water, and may be even harder to avoid. Fresh milk from the carrier should be boiled and cooled before consumption. Non-pasteurized dairy can spread tuberculosis. Be careful of the people with a hacking cough. Nestle Milk Pak, Haleeb Milk, and others are trusted brands and are available at most grocery stores.
Take precautions against malaria, which is spread by mosquitoes. The first and most effective way is to avoid getting bitten, but if you plan to stay in a place where malaria is common, you may need to eat prophylactic medicine as well. The risk of getting Malaria decreases with higher altitudes.
In the summer it gets very hot. Be careful to stay hydrated.
Do not eat food that has been lying out for some time, as high temperatures speed up deterioration. Avoid posh but unfrequented restaurants.
Some Pakistani dishes can be very spicy! Always notify your host, cook or waiter if you can not take very spicy food.
Pakistanis pride themselves on their tradition of hospitality to guests (mehmanawazi in Urdu, milmastia in Pashtu, puranadari in Punjabi). Just a greeting of Salam Alaykum will get you far in endearing yourself to people. If you are travelling outside the big cities like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad it is advisable to learn some basic Urdu or a regional language.
Just respect and observe. Pakistan is a conservative country and it is advisable for women to wear long skirts or pants in public (Pakistani women wear the traditional shalwar kameez). Dress codes for men are more lax, though shorts are uncommon. Never shake hands with a woman you don't know very well.
As with most of South Asia, you should use your right hand for eating, shaking hands and giving or receiving everything (including money), and reserve your left hand for handling shoes and assisting in toilet duties.
PTCL (Pakistan Telecommunication Ltd.)  was a government-run phone company providing communications services such as land-line phones, mobile phones, Internet, and VoIP services. Now the company is privatized and is run by UAE's Phone company etisalat. Major providers of mobile phone service (GSM) are:
Zong - China Mobile  
Friday, March 20, 2009
Who here has children? Raise your hands! Very well then. Quite a few. Who here has read to their children? Ah. Ha. Still a pretty good number of you, yes? Well let me ask you one final question. Which one of you fine parents out there haven’t read to their child: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle? One of you? Ay! Well shame on you Mum. How could you have deprived poor little Siempre Solo from this childhood wonder and this childhood joy? Huh? “Not born here” you say? “Never heard of him!” Ah well that is just to bad. No loss though Mum! You are quite forgiven. I my self however have made no such traumatic mistake with my own children. Because you see, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle has been a family favorite with the Solo children since ever the eldest girl was a wee lass of 3. You should know that she no longer fills those shoes. She is now twenty. But her younger brother and my wife and mine middle child also had the privilege of enjoying this fine book called The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. And yes for those of you that know even the twins that will be two shortly also have been blessed by the lovely story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. “Well that’s fine and well.” I’m sure all of you are saying “But what is so important about this little children’s book?” you are asking. Well that is a good question. And here is a good answer. Today Friday March 20th, 2009 is not only the first day of Spring “Welcome flowers!” But it is also the fortieth anniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. This little children’s book you see was written exactly 40 years ago in 1969 by the very prolific children’s book author and illustrator Eric Carle. Many of you might not know but he has written and illustrated over 51 children’s books. His books have been published in many different languages as well. The Very Hungry caterpillar having the honor of being published in 46 different languages with over 36 different foreign publishers. Eric Carle was born in what was until recently my beloved adopted home town of Syracuse, New York. He was born in 1929 and lived there till he was six years old and moved with his parents to Germany where he went to school and eventually graduated from the prestigious art school, the Akademie der bildenden Künste, in Stuttgart. But his dream was always to return to America, the land of his happiest childhood memories. So, in 1952, with a fine portfolio in hand and forty dollars in his pocket, he arrived in New York. Soon he found a job as a graphic designer in the promotion department of The New York Times. Later, he was the art director of an advertising agency for many years. One day, respected educator and author, Bill Martin Jr, called to ask Carle to illustrate a story he had written. Martin’s eye had been caught by a striking picture of a red lobster that Carle had created for an advertisement. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? was the result of their collaboration. It is still a favorite with children everywhere. This was the beginning of Eric Carle’s true career. Soon Carle was writing his own stories, too. His first wholly original book was 1,2,3 to the Zoo, followed soon afterward by the celebrated classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I implore you today to take some time out to watch the YouTube Video adaptation of Eric Carle’s lovely childhood classic and if you can get your hands on a copy pick it up and read it to a little one close by. Preferably your own if you have any. Make sure you check out the external link on the left for more fascinating facts and information.If I am not mistaken A 40th Anniversary Pop-Up edition is being released. So have fun with it as you welcome spring! And as always…
Eating is one the most important events in everyone’s life. We enjoy eating - it’s part of who we are and part of our culture; in fact, eating is the hottest universal topic of all times. We depend on eating: the foods we eat are the sole source of our energy and nutrition. We know so much about eating: we are born with the desire to eat and grown up with rich traditions of eating. But we also know so little about eating - about how the foods we eat everyday affect our health. We are more confused than ever about the link between diet and health: margarine is healthier than butter or not; a little alcohol will keep heart attacks at bay but cause breast cancer; dietary vitamin antioxidants can prevent lung cancer or can not. Eating is a paradox and a mystery that our ancestors tried and modern scientists are trying to solve.
Based on experiences and traditions, our ancestors have used foods and plant materials to treat various kinds of illness. Manuscripts discovered from a tomb (dated 168 B.C.) in China described prescriptions for 52 ailments with herbs, grains, legumes, vegetables, animal parts, and minerals. Ancient Sumerians recorded the use of 250 medicinal plants on tablets five thousand years ago. Today, plant and food remedies are still the major medicinal source for 80% of the world’s population.
The pharmacological roles of everyday foods have long been neglected by modern medicine due to lack of proven scientific validity. The main focus of modern medicine has been on pharmaceuticals. With the invention of modern chemotherapy by Paul Erhlich in the early twentieth century and sulfa drugs and antibiotics in the 1930’s and 1940’s, it seemed as if chemical medicines would take care of all our ills. However, while there continues to be great strides made in the understanding and use of pharmaceuticals, there is also widespread dissatisfaction with both them and the system of medicine that utilizes them. This dissatisfaction is centered around the feeling that they are too disease-oriented, and perhaps too limited by their precision to cope effectively with the subtle factors and interrelationships that compromise human health and disease. The precise and pure nature of modern biomedical pharmaceuticals also tends to increase their side effects. In addition, with the victory over many common infectious diseases, more people are concerned with chronic degenerative processes and with prevention of disease. The increasing concerns have started a new movement in medical research. More and more mainstream scientists are reaching back to the truth of ancient food folk medicines and dietary practices for clues to remedies and antidotes to our modern diseases.
Research on pharmacological effects of foods is fast-paced and the results are exciting. The mystery of what foods can do for or to us has started to unveil. In order to effectively use foods for our health benefits, the following issues need to be considered:
- Keep up with the most recent scientific findings and make use of them for our health benefits
- Try to use variety of whole foods as much as possible instead of isolated dietary supplements for your health problems - they are safer, cheaper, and usually more effective since they can provide multiple and balanced disease fighting capabilities
- Choice of foods is important: since healing power of a food is depending on the content of pharmacologically active constituents that differ among foods, and certain foods may need to be avoided due to their disease encouraging activities
- How do you prepare and eat your foods can affect their pharmacological effects
- Concerns about multiple health conditions: foods that benefit one health condition may be harmful to others
- Overall nutritional values of foods